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Moving on From Difficult Conversations

The Doe Team

by The Doe Team

| May 19, 2022

We often spend so much time preparing for difficult conversations that we forget to prepare ourselves for what comes after.

Prepping for a difficult conversation with a loved one can be emotionally fraught, bringing up feelings like shame, guilt, anxiety and fear.

There is often so much thought and preparation that goes into how, when and where to have that difficult conversation that most people stop there.

But what happens after you’ve had that difficult conversation?

Here at The Doe, we’ve taken a deep dive into both how to start a difficult conversation and getting a difficult conversation back on track, and now we’re going to take a look at how to move on from those hard conversations in life.

Here are five things you should do to help you mentally and physically move on from a difficult conversation.

Keep in mind that the below steps work as long as your conversation doesn't end with threats of violence or in an emotionally toxic way. In other words, you still want to maintain a relationship with the other person. You should always take care of yourself and your emotional health first and foremost.

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Allow Yourself to Process the Conversation

As we noted above, you may be feeling a host of difficult emotions after prepping for and then having this hard conversation. Allow yourself some time to process what happened, whether it’s the other person’s reaction to what you said or just allowing yourself to sit with your feelings.

Take, for example, this story, written by one of The Doe’s community members who describes a difficult conversation she had with a former flame. Upon entering into a relationship, our author didn’t realize the person she was pursuing was married. After learning about the hidden marriage and having the difficult conversation with her flame about the state and future of their relationship, she had to process the realities of the situation she was in.

For her, this acknowledgement and understanding took time. It required her to take responsibility for her own actions throughout the relationship, feel shame and then get to a place where she could move on with grace. Overcoming the aftermath of a difficult conversation can take time, but with enough work to process a situation, our contributor was set free and able to grow into a new version of herself.

Processing the conversation can take time, and that’s OK. One way to help your brain process the conversation is to write it down. This can be either the conversation itself (from what you remember of it) or your feelings about the conversation. Letting your feelings out is good for your mental health, according to therapist Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D. He writes for Psychology Today that “writing is a good way to release your feelings.”

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Talk to a Trusted Friend or Loved One

Another way to help you move on from a difficult conversation is to turn to a trusted friend, loved one or even a professional.

Talking to someone you trust about the conversation and the other person’s reaction can not only help you reflect on the talk you had (what went well, what didn’t) but it can help you let go of some of the uncomfortable thoughts and emotions that arose during the talk. 

Having a support system is important, especially if the conversation you’ve had was about something very personal to you, like coming out to your parents for the first time.

Creating a network of trusted people is a meaningful way to ensure you’re emotionally supported during what could be a difficult time.

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Recognize the Conversation Happened

After the conversation, don’t pretend it never happened. The best way to move on may actually be to bring it up. Acknowledge it was really hard but you are glad you were able to talk to them about it. Do your best to focus on the positives that may have come from having the conversation, including the fact you were able to even have the conversation and be open and honest with them in the first place.

For example, in this story written for The Doe, our author talks about growing up in a family with differing political ideologies from his own. Instead of sweeping under the rug the values his family held on to so tightly, he used his upbringing as fuel to learn new perspectives and shape his set of personal beliefs. He was able to acknowledge what was important to his family, reevaluate what was important to him and still find common ground to continue his relationship with his family.

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Check Back in With the Other Person

This isn’t a one-and-done situation. If your relationship with the other person is important to you and you want to keep this person in your life, make the time to follow up with them.

Difficult conversations often raise emotionally jarring issues and can be hard to process. Perhaps the other person needs time to fully understand what you told them.

By following up with them later, it gives you both time to appreciate what was said. 

Don’t forget everyone processes information differently and in their own time, and just because you’re ready to talk again doesn’t always mean the other person is in the place. The path toward forgiveness and acceptance isn’t always a smooth one, and that’s OK. Above all, remember to be gentle with yourself.

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Spend Some Time on Self-Care

It’s critical that after an emotionally (and physically) draining experience that you spend some time acknowledging those feelings and then focus on ways you can practice self-care.

You’ve already likely spent plenty of time reliving the conversation in your head, wondering what you should have said or could have said differently. The last thing you need right now is to guilt trip yourself or start criticizing how the conversation went.

Now you need to focus on yourself and doing things that bring you joy and perhaps a sense of calm and some peace. This could look like taking yourself outside on a hike in nature, throwing a dance party for one or going to the gym. This could also look like binging your favorite show on Netflix and ordering in the best comfort food or snuggling up with your favorite feel-good book.

Whatever it is, it should bring you happiness, and you shouldn’t feel guilty doing it.

A Final Word

Having a difficult conversation is never fun. But they usually prove to be crucial turning points in our life. They can help you better understand who you are and your relationships with others.

They can help you grow as a person, develop your emotional intelligence and learn how to navigate challenging situations in life.

In every relationship, there is the potential to encounter a massive challenge that can either solidify or break the bond. Choosing to communicate effectively and taking the necessary relationship-building steps after a difficult conversation can go a long way in reaching the next level in your interactions.

For more articles on navigating tricky life lessons, check out some of the stories shared from our authors about moving on from difficult conversations, and explore all our narratives for further reading opportunities.

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